Saturday, November 24, 2007

DIY Wort Chiller

In search of ever faster cold breaks, my wife and I thought a wort chiller would help. One trip to Home Depot and four hours later, here is the result.

What you are looking at is a chiller that is set up to use a water pump to circulate the coolant. Our idea is to circulate ice water through the chiller to increase its cooling capability.
The parts:

The water pump is in the middle, and is being re-used from a fish tank. This is of course a great opportunity for contamination.

$26.53 20' 3/8" OD .0038" wall Copper tubing (Refrigerator grade)
$19.20 15' 8 gauge copper wire (wrong item - use > 8 gauge)
$04.44 10' Vinyl tubing 3/8" OD 1/4" ID
$04.40 3/8"x1/4" Compression coupler for attaching female thread to copper tube
$04.24 3/8" Male threaded 1/4" tube barb
$02.74 1/2" Male threaded 1/4" tube barb for water pump
$04.37 Reduction coupler for water pump

Amortizable/Borrowable items

$08.49 Tube bending tool (set of bending springs)

So for about $70 exclusive the water pump I got to waste an afternoon when I could have easily purchased a chiller for about the same!

Never mind the instructions, if you are intrepid enough to try putting one together, you are going to be able to figure it out. But here are the lessons learned:

- Never build your own wort chiller. Or, only build one for fun. It seems that it is hard to justify the cost and time.

- 8 Gauge copper wire is too difficult to work by hand. Get thinner wire. I suspended the loops of copper tubing by weaving the copper wire between the tubes, with two wraps per tube. I wound up (no pun intended) finding thinner copper wire around the house. Note the use of a spacer.

- Identify an object to use as a mold for this chiller tubing. Here, a 5 gallon PVC bucket perfectly fits in a small boil pot.

- The finalized wort chiller.

Additional points:
  • Clean the oil and dirt off the copper by using white vinegar.

  • When the copper wire is purchased, do not allow the store to tape or label the wire - the adhesive backing is difficult to remove from the wire.

  • Plan carefully the inlet and outlet - I sized the chiller against several different pots.

  • Consider drip loops for the inlet and outlet - in the picture above, they appear at a ninety degree angle, but condensate and leaks are going to clearly slide down the neck into the wort. Consider pointing the inlet and outlet downwards.

Results from having used the chiller:

  • First off, the boil is HOT. If you DIY a chiller, consider that heat conducts and the entire apparatus will come up to temperature. In our first usage, we threw the chiller in during the boil to sanitize it. The result is that the vinyl intake/outake tubes practically melted. Next time, we will first sanitize the chill with iodophor and remove the heat before immersion.

  • When the chiller was placed into the boil, it immediately refluxed. This is an important point to your DIY design - the air and remainder water from testing remains inside the chiller. When immersed, the air rapidly expands and remaining water gurgles out the intake and outake. Of course if you are connecting it to mains, this is less a problem. We are using a water pump which had to fight head pressure from the expansion of air.

  • Though the vinyl is tough, it will chemically alter from the heat and our chiller's vinyl tubing near the copper now has a pretty good haze.

  • The vinyl tubing is connected to barbs. When heated from immersion in the boil, the barbs were no longer effective in anchoring the vinyl tubing and minor leakage occured.

  • Apparently compression fittings need LOTS of compression - ours leaked slightly risking wort contamination.

  • Thought I planned carefully the inlet and outlet, you cannot leave too much - the heat conducts across copper like crazy. Leave at least a foot!

  • The next time we use this chiller, it is going to work really well. Maybe the beer master will post the temperature curve for us...

- Detail on the vinyl tubing - note the steam refluxing into the lower tube. Keep the flow going on immersion! The vinyl became quite soft and there was concern it would fall off the barbs.

- the whole setup in action! The main lesson is to bring the temperature down with mains water from 120 to about 90 and then to throw ice in and bring it down from 90 to the objective temperature. We had lots of ice, and it melted quite quickly!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Importing and Exporting Contacts from Outlook using Excel

MS Excel 2002 10.6501.6735 SP3
MS Outlook 2002 10.6515.6735 SP3

If you try and use the import/export feature of Outlook to manage contacts, good luck. Outlook is heavily design biased to be the primary manager of the contacts. It doesn't like to export its contacts, have them manipulate and the imported back in. If you manually export your contacts think of it as a one way operation. And importing contacts gets a little more challenging.

There are great third party applications (e.g. Intellsync in the ubiquitous Blackberry Desktop Manager) but you think you can outsmart things and use MS Excel to quickly manage and manipulate your contacts outside of Outlook. Maybe you have no reason, but here is the trick to round trip edit your contacts using MS Excel: Named Ranges.

The best way to get a template XLS file is to first export the MS Outlook contacts. I'm sure you can figure out how to do this. If not, you probably wouldn't want to anyway.

Take a look at the exported file: It will have the columns that you want, and the data that is expected. But it is easy to miss the 'Named Range' that was created in the Excel XLS file. You can't simply manipulate your contact data without understanding that the Named Range must be managed too.

Named Ranges are managed by the menu options Insert->Name->Define. Once you see the Define Name window things get obvious. You will see that MS Outlook created a Named Range called 'Contacts'. In the Refers To field at the bottom of the Define Name window, you will be able to click on the 'show me the range' icon in the bottom right and see the extent of the Named Range.

There is also another trick to know what is in the Excel document. Take a look at the menu File->Properties and select the Contents tab. This is an excellent way to get the gist of what is in the XLS file.

Edit away on your contacts! But then update the Named Range. "=Contacts!$A$1:$CN$178" may be the Named Range exported, so make sure to edit the Named Range to reflect added rows. How do you add a new or update your Named Range? If you read this far, it will be a no brainer to figure out.

When you wish to Import back into MS Outlook your contacts, be sure to define or update your Named Range. And good luck with the two or three other issues you will hit - e.g. be sure to put a tick (') in front of all your entered fields in the XLS file!

Named Range. Get it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How to open the Western Digital My Book 500GB

Do not be stupid and leave the unit plugged in or plug it in during disassembly. And you are about to void any warranty you may have.

Model: WD5000C032

Step one

Identify the corner screw that is painted black. It is located by the lock hole. Scrape it clean and unscrew it. The two clam shells that form the My Book are very snug.

Step two

Put the My Book up on its end, the long rubber feet down. Locate the locking tab (See step four). It will be visible through the grille. Push locking tab down with screw driver (pink) and insert another (red) to torque the two clam shells apart. Be gentle, the plastic is soft and chances are it will get marred. Torque the clam shells apart just enough to prevent the tab from locking.
Step Three

Flip it over and do the same. But just enough to get the locking tab to not lock. Flip it over, and continue to repeat steps two and three until you can pry the clam shells apart with your fingers or a soft instrument.

Step Four

Note the locking tabs; it will help you visualize what is to be done in steps two and three. Step the outer clamshell aside and lay the hard drive caddy flat. Observe the white transparent LED button that is used to power the My Book on and off.

Step Five

Do not attempt to remove the hard drive. There is much work yet to be done. Notice how the drive screws are inaccessible.

Step Six

Unscrew the three screws that hold the LED PCB in place.

Step Seven

Remove the LED PCB. It is connected by pins, so wiggle it gently until it disconnects.

Step Eight

Now this is the second hard part. The first was opening the clamshell I’m sure you will agree. The power supply PCB on the bottom of the drive caddy must be loosened so that the LED PCB connector can clear the plastic clamshell. Loosen the two screws nearest the LED connector. You may have to remove some aluminum tape that holds the HDD connectors in place.
Step Nine

It can’t be explained. Just keep manipulating the HDD caddy until it comes out of the plastic clamshell.
Step Ten

Now remove the other two screws from the power supply cage. This is necessary so that the HDD screws can be removed without damaging the sheet metal that forms the power connector housing.

Step Ten

Now remove the other two screws from the power supply cage. This is necessary so that the HDD screws can be removed without damaging the sheet metal that forms the power connector housing.

Step Twelve

You should screw the power supply cage back on at this point: the posts that are inside it are going to float around and impact components and traces as the other three HDD screws are removed.

Step Thirteen

Remove the HDD cables.

Step Fourteen

The HDD may be removed by wiggling it free of the rubber shock mounts to which it is attached.

Congratulations. Enjoy replacing the drive.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Lexmark E352dn - an excellent network printer

After owning a Samsung SCX-4X16 series printer and HP Officejet Model 710, it was becoming clear that consumer multifunction printers are very poor products in general. Too complex, too much host side software needed and poor vendor support. Over time, the Samsung developed both parallel and USB connectivity problems (tried to correct through three different hosts, different cables, same behavior resulted). The HP just couldn't function until its host side software worked which it rarely did. The best malfunction of this printer was printing one letter of a document on a scale that spread it across four pages.

These two experiences showed a couple things:

  • Multifunctional printers do not do one thing well but may do many things poorly.
  • If host side software is required, the printer will eventually be unusable as the OS marches forward in its patching.
  • Devices that require a host to be turned on to be network shared are just about useless in this day and age of home wireless networks.

Recommendations buying a new printer:

  • Don't go multifunctional.
  • Make sure it is network based and does not have to be connected to a PC
  • Make sure it can support more than just MS Windows (this forces a much better designed device)
After searching for a new printer the Lexmark E352dn came up as a pretty good bet - and it has been absolutely perfect so far.

Unpacked the new E352dn
Plugged in the printer to my wireless router via ethernet so that it could be accessed from all my 802.11 hosts in the house.

Here is what was observed:
  • Is a DHCP client
  • Has a web server
  • Does not share any filesystem \\
  • Has an FTP Server (for what purpose?)
$ ftp
Connected to
220 ET000400C5F980 Lexmark E352dn FTP Server NZ0.NA.N001 ready.
User (
230 User default logged in.
ftp> dir
200 PORT command successful.
150 Opening ASCII data connection (,5001).
Total 0
226 Transfer complete.
ftp: 9 bytes received in 0.00Seconds 9000.00Kbytes/sec.
ftp> pwd
257 "/prt0" is the current directory.

Install Experience
But I didn't get far with my, "Never install the CD that comes with the product". The printer drivers were needed in order to add a network printer to Windows. Of course that is easily done after unpacking and connecting the Lexmark - another indicator of excellent product quality.

Using MS Windows, specifically search for the drivers off the CD that comes with the E352dn. Don't use its setup.exe or autorun features. Once the drivers are installed, the printer will work like a charm. Interestingly enough, directly installing the drivers circumvents the affirmative assent license agreement that is supposed to be accepted.

Driver install details:

  • Installed E352dn driver (PCL?)
  • Installed E352dn PS3 driver
  • This installs two different printers.

Went back to web interface and noticed a static IP Address could be set up
Gave it a reasonable hostname, "Lexmark E352dn"
Printer Server Settings->TCP/IP->Set static IP address
Once this address is changed, you have to update the driver port settings. Right click on the Lexmark in the "Printers & Faxes" control panel, choose properties->Ports tab and re-configure the previously set up ports.

Examined CD for extras

Ran setup.exe and chose custom option->Select components->Local (using previously configured local printers)

Components (IP Setup Utility AFAIK) can be installed in different locations but the browse folder functionality is unusable. The default drive, C, can't be changed without have to manually retype default path.

Driver Profiler

  • Sets profile defaults for the driver when the drivers are installed by script. I think these are the 'Printers & Faxes'->Right click on Lexmark printer->Printer Preferences (Also available on Print panel from application's print menu option)
  • So I skipped it.

Enhanced Communication Software & Status Window

Tools - IP Setup Utility & Screen Fonts
  • Skipped IP Setup Utility - seems like all the TCP/IP configs can be done through the web interface

Alas, stuff is installed that we were not expecting: C:\Program Files\Lexmark_HostCD\Install\ some doc installs here as well as the installer. Guess it has to go somewhere.


Uninstalls really cleanly and also recognizes printers installed using Windows Printer and Faxes control panel so those can be uninstalled if manually setup as described above.

Host Software Summary

Excellent software, open minded approach to configuration, "If you installed your printer driver without using the Software and Documentation CD, you can still install your screen fonts from the [install cd]".

  • Setup.exe installer makes it hard to change the install path of components
  • The properties panel is slow to show when printing from within applications: File->Print->Properties takes too long to display (probably talks across my wireless network)
  • The
  • When the printer properties "2 Sided Printing" is set to "Use printer settings" a "Manual Duplex" checkbox shows up on the print panel. This is the off the shelf configuration and is surprising to see since the printer comes with an automatic, not manual duplexer. Of course this is due to Windows allowing us to manually duplex be re-feeding a document. So it is a feature, not a bug. (Seriously, the automatic duplex does long edge and short edge duplex printing but manual duplex allows various rotations if needed)
  • The included doc didn't seem to say anything about the duplexing feature
  • The duplexer is not internal... rather a sheet is ejected and then pulled back off the output tray - a little suprising if you are watching the printer.
Quick Setup

Here is a picture journal of the driver install. This is the bare minimum required.

Yeah, counterintuitive: a local printer has to be configured. I'm unsure why the E352dn cannot be directly treated as a network printer.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Install in D:\ but it goes into C:\

Generally speaking, Windows home computing should be done from a single big fat volume 'C:\'.

For flawed reasons, I've decided to install all my applications and data on my D:\ drive. Just about every installer provides an option to change install locations from C:\. But sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.

Here is a list of applications that install files in C:\ like it or not:

Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Standard

Installed here: D:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 6.0
Showed up here: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 6.0 (Post install updater)

Lizard Tech Express View JPEG 2000 Viewer

Installed here: D:\Program Files\LizardTech\Express View
Files showed up here: C:\Program Files\Common Files\LizardTech Shared (In all fairness, there was a previous web browse plugin install location that had common files which might have been initially placed here)

My terrible Samsung Printer

Installed here: D:\Program Files\Samsung\SmarThruSCX-4x16 Series\RCP
Files showed up here: C:\Program Files\Samsung\Samsung


I just came across a journal of my primary disk utilization when reinstalling Windows and all the obligatory office productivity apps.

"rebooted 5,330,866,176
installed all my fav apps (On D, of course) including ms office, adobe, visio 6,514,597,888"

1.1GB dropped on my C Drive for installing them on D...